Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaching a course with open tools

This week, I am beginning to team-teach a graduate course for Seattle Pacific University entitled, "Issues and Advances in Educational Technology" using a Google Site for the course content and a private Google Group for the class discussions.  David Wicks (my co-developer) and I thought it would be important for students to not only study these advances at a theoretical level, but also to experience these emerging technologies on a practical level. We also thought we should use tools that are free for teachers to implement in their classrooms. We are also using web-based readings rather than a textbook for the course content.

We recognize that there is a steeper learning curve with this approach, especially with most other SPU courses being implemented within Blackboard... but few schools use Blackboard. We are simply replacing desktop computer-based tools (bookmarks, word processing, web page authoring) with Internet-based tools (delicious.com, GoogleDocs, Google Sites). We are encouraging our graduate students to think about the application of these tools to their own situations in their classrooms.

We also wanted to model the collaboration that is possible using Google Sites: we kept most of our comments on the pages where we discussed the content and development process of the course as it was being constructed. We also set up a Notes on Development page, using the Announcements page type in Google Sites, as a journal or page (with entries organized in reverse-chronological order) where we documented our development process... much like a blog without RSS feeds.

Speaking of RSS feeds... when you are a member of a Google Site, you can go to More Actions and Subscribe to Page Changes (for the page you are on) or Subscribe to Site Changes (for the entire site). Any time a change is made to the page or site, you will receive an email showing the changes. For collaborative projects, this feature is essential! But it can add significantly to your email volume. So, we provided advice to our students on how to manage email from this class. We will be asking the students for feedback on the process and using these open tools, and I will blog about the process periodically over the semester.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Group Brainstorming with GoogleDocs

I have been doing a brainstorming activity for a while with groups, but yesterday, it was especially productive. I was doing a workshop on e-portfolios at a community college. We spent the morning exploring issues of e-portfolio development in a large group, lecture-style. After lunch, we moved to a computer lab, where I led them through several exercises to help them put together a plan for implementation. I did an almost identical set of exercises in my workshop in New Hampshire in August, but it took a lot longer because then we were using pen and paper.

On Friday, I had the participants organize in groups (sitting together around a person who had a Google account). Each team gave themselves a name. Then I had each team set up a GoogleDoc to store their brainstorming ideas, sharing these documents with me and the person in the organization who was responsible for the meeting, who needed a record of all of their work… I just needed to share their results on the projector so all could see. It is so much more efficient than paper and pencil or flipcharts and markers. I know this is not an original idea… it just worked so well for me, especially when they shortened my afternoon workshop by one hour (so that participants could avoid Friday afternoon traffic in Boston… I soon found out what they meant as I made my way toward the airport!)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Official Google Docs Blog entry

I just wrote a guest blog entry on the Official Google Docs Blog on Electronic Portfolios in GoogleApps. It was an interesting process... trying to compress my thoughts into 500 words! But we used a shared Google Doc document that currently has 597 revisions! It was fun to edit a document with someone who really understands the collaborative editing capabilities of Google Docs.

Also made it on the Google Student blog as Creating your digital resume. I've been given a lot of titles (ePortfolio guru, the grandmother of ePortfolios) but on Twitter today there was a first: ePortfolio jedi master!

Another 15 minutes of fame on the Internet! And another public mention of writing a book... I guess I need to get it written!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Open Action Research Project

Posted to my website today:
I am embarking on a new form of research, to be conducted online. Participation is open to K-12 teachers or teacher educators. To be a full participant in this open action research project, teachers need to do the following:
  1. Set up a new blog to document your process of implementing ePortfolios with your students. Use Blogger, WordPress, Edublogs, or any blog that has RSS feeds. Send your blog address to Dr. Barrett by email. Describe your context (grade level/subject, type of school, state where you are located, whether you are urban, suburban or rural, etc.).
  2. Create a blog entry that outlines your goals for implementing portfolios with your students - and create a web page that describes those goals for both students and parents. This web page could be on your school web space, or a Web 2.0 space such as Google Sites. Send the web page address to Dr. Barrett, when you get it posted.
  3. Maintain weekly blog entries about the process, including what you did, what your students did, examples of instructional materials that you used (or developed). Dr. Barrett will follow your RSS feed and will respond as time permits by commenting on your blog.
  4. Enroll in Dr. Barrett's Google Group on K12 ePortfolios with other teachers participating in the project. In this group, Dr. Barrett will post suggestions and answer questions about the ePortfolio development process using Web 2.0 tools. Due to limited time and resources, answers will be limited to the use of blogs, wikis, GoogleApps and other free Web 2.0 tools, not on using commercial or open source tools. The primary communication will be through email posts to the group. (This group is moderated to avoid spam.)
  5. For those who like to Twitter, use the following tag #web2eportfolios or join the group: http://www.twibes.com/group/web2eportfolios
  6. Use the following resources to support implementation of ePortfolios in K-12 schools:

  7. If you are alone in your school, trying to implement ePortfolios, find a partner and get your principal's support! My previous research shows that it really takes a school team and strong leadership to effectively implement ePortfolios. Let's see what we all learn together!
If you maintain weekly blog entries, you may schedule periodic Skype conversations with Dr. Barrett to discuss your specific implementation strategies, issues and concerns.

"Hot on Twitter"

I just finished a Classroom 2.0 webinar on Interactive ePortfolios, and there was some technical problem with my slides, so they started to use my SlideShare version. (For the first time in years, I printed out my slides... good thing! Paper? Oh, well... it all worked out.) I received the following email from Slideshare during my presentation:
"Classroom2.0" is being tweeted more than any other document on SlideShare right now. So we've put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the "Hot on Twitter" section).

Well done, you!

- SlideShare Team
Wow... 15 minutes of fame!

UPDATE on 9/22:  Another email from SlideShare:
Your presentation is currently being featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.

We thank you for this terrific presentation, that has been chosen from amongst the thousands that are uploaded to SlideShare everday.

Congratulations! Have a Great Day!,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Midnight Class

Last night, I worked with a group of elementary teachers at midnight (for me), lunchtime for them... in Mumbai! I am starting an ePortfolio project with teachers at the American School of Bombay. This is a school with 1-1 laptops from third grade! And I get to visit the school for a conference at the end of February 2010, when I will get a chance to meet the teachers face-to-face, and see the ePortfolios that their students are building. They are part of my research for my book.

This time, I shared my desktop with Adobe Connect, and they called my phone for the audio. I was told the screensharing was much better that using Skype's new feature, and phone audio was more consistent... and when you have teachers on a short lunch break, that is important. We are also using a Ning social network between sessions. The school bought the elementary teachers Elizabeth Hebert's book, The Power of Portfolios, covering the pedagogy of portfolios in elementary schools. The book doesn't address the use of technology for this process, but together we will select the appropriate tools for students to use.  There are three third-grade teachers participating... it will be fun to see what their students can manage. It won't be a typical school situation, but I know we will learn a lot from each other.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Introducing DataLiberation.org: Liberate your data!

Today, the leader of Google's Data Liberation Front announced his team's efforts to "allow users to transfer their personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions." As explained in the blog entry,
... a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere....

We've already liberated over half of all Google products, from our popular blogging platform Blogger, to our email service Gmail, and Google developer tools including App Engine. In the upcoming months, we also plan to liberate Google Sites and Google Docs (batch-export).
This feature has huge implications for using Google tools for ePortfolio development.  Just as they announced last month that you could transfer a Google Site from a GoogleApps for Education domain to another Google account you own, this looks like a systemic approach to data portability, to transfer data out of Google, should you so choose.  This is an open standards approach which will be interesting to watch. The only thing is... where else would I put that data? Are other cloud computing companies going to follow suit?

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Interesting New Links

Google Wave – how will it change the online learning landscape?

This blog entry, from a university in New Zealand, points out the potential advantages of Google Wave over a traditional Learning Management System (LMS). I love the quote,
"On every investment, one expects at least some positive return. As far as LMS’s go the students actually get none! All the work they do in a course over the semester is lost as the courses on LMS’s are recycled for use next semester. As far as the notion of ePortfolios go, Google Wave will have a huge impact upon selection of what tool to go with and a positive spin for the students who’ll be able to showcase all of three years work to prospect employees." 
Amen! I am so anxious to get my hands on Google Wave! I hear a beta release is due out September 30, 2009, to a select group of users. Other recent blog posts:

A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges - washingtonpost.com

Will the Internet Revolution have the same impact on Higher Education as it has on the newspaper industry? This quote is disturbing to me:
The typical 2030 faculty will likely be a collection of adjuncts alone in their apartments, using recycled syllabuses and administering multiple-choice tests from afar.
To me, that statement reflects a misunderstanding of both teaching and assessment.

Ask-Dr-Kirk: E-portfolios A Useful Tool For Both Students And Faculty 

The attachment on this page is by J. Elizabeth Clark, Professor of English, and Bret Eynon, Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning, both of Laguardia Community College, CUNY entitled "E-portfolios at 2.0—Surveying the Field" published by AAC&U, Winter 2009. This is a good overview of the current issues in implementing ePortfolios on a national and international scale. Providing a good counter-argument to the Washington Post article, the paper identifies the Four Major Drivers of Portfolio Use:
  1. pedagogical change in higher education, a growing interest in student-centered active and integrative learning
  2. technological capacity to document and publish diverse forms of student learning online... and the experience of learners with social networking tools
  3. the pressure for increased accountability in higher education, facilitating a more classroom-based and faculty-driven alternative form of assessment
  4. the need for “an education passport,” a way for mobile students—and professionals—to represent their learning and carry it with them as they move from one setting to another.
One emphasis of the LaGuardia ePortfolio is their attention to visual rhetoric in students' portfolios [increasing personalization and creativity]. A quote from this article supports the notion that the loss of visual richness in "fill-in-the-blanks" types of ePortfolio systems does not allow the level of student engagement that an ePortfolio should encourage, along with my issues of balancing student ownership with institutional accountability:
Through e-portfolios we have an opportunity to harness the power of imagery and digital media to advanced cognitive processes. If standardized presentations become the norm, it may jeopardize student enthusiasm and miss an opportunity to connect academic discourse to the visually rich multimedia universe. (p.21)
...if e-portfolios are only assessment tools, without value or meaning to the students who create them, they will lose vitality and become an exercise in discipline and surveillance. (p.23)
Another Amen! The article also quotes me (about different approaches to ePortfolios and assessment) during a panel at the ePortfolio Conference held at Laguardia in April 2008.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Discovering your "something"

Today, President Obama said:
Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.
He also told students, "stay focused, find something you're passionate about... set goals and work hard to achieve them." I would add: How will you know what that "something" is? We all need a space where we discover, explore, and document what we are good at... what we have to offer. What better place for than exploration than a reflective portfolio, to highlight our strengths and passions? In an online journal/portfolio, we can share our goals and dreams with ourselves and our teachers, friends and family. That's an opportunity an ePortfolio can provide.